Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour, recalling the words of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, the mother of Our Lord at the Annunciation. The Archangel Gabriel told Mary that her Son, Who would be conceived by the Holy Spirit, is the Son of God, and He would be known as Jesus, that according to St. Paul in the second chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians, is the Name above every other names.
That is why today we celebrate this special occasion in which we recall this important fact of how by this Name, this special Name of the Lord all of us have been saved. There is no other names by which we have received salvation and only at the Name of Our Lord Jesus, we have received Him Who is our Saviour and Liberator, the One Who freed us from bondage to sin and to the punishment of death.
And we will understand its significance better when we know how in the historical past, the Holy Name of God, written in the Hebrew Tetragrammaton as YHVH, often translated into Yahweh in the modern use of the English language, is a Name that is taboo and not to be uttered in any way, for the Holy Name of God is so holy that uttering the Name was a grave sin and breach of the Jewish traditions and laws, and even more so if the Name was used in vain.
That is why, based on this historical precedent, the Church has never used the Holy Name of God in the form of YHVH or Yahweh unlike what some others have adopted or used, and instead preferring to use the title ‘Lord’ to refer to God in the Biblical context whenever the Holy Name is invoked and recorded. But it is kind of different with the Name, ‘Jesus’ which we focus on today, as this Name is indeed the Name of God too, because we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, is God. But yet, unlike the name ‘YHVH’ mentioned earlier, the Name Jesus can be used.
Why is that so? That is because if we understand it more clearly, we can make the link with how God, Who was once invisible and beyond our ability to grasp and perceive, has chosen to make Himself apparent and available to us, appearing in the Flesh; in the form of Man, by the incarnation of the Divine Word, the Son, into the humanity that He united to His divinity, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.
Since the beginning of time, God has given each and every one of us our identity, beginning with the naming of our first ancestors, Adam, who in turn named his wife, Eve. All mankind have been known by their names, and upon the birth of a baby, each and every one of them receive a name to distinguish themselves from one another. And just as how Adam named the animals and plants of the earth, we mankind also use names to identify objects and living things around us, in our own diverse languages.
Therefore, as Jesus was born as the Son of Man through His mother Mary, He also received this Name, Jesus, just like all of us have received our names. But what makes this Name so special and so far beyond any other names is the fundamental fact that Jesus is not just Man, but also fully God, incarnate in the Flesh. And that is why, if the name ‘YHVH’ was considered to be so holy and a grave taboo to be mentioned, the Name ‘Jesus’ is also holy and sacred.
That was why Pope Gregory X at the Second Council of Lyons in the year 1274 proclaimed that all Christians ought to bow reverently at the every mention of the Holy Name of Jesus, the Name special above all other names, the Name by which all of us have received our salvation and promise of eternal life, in accordance to what St. Paul had also written in his Epistle to the Philippians in our first reading today, that at the Name of Jesus, all knees shall bend, those on earth, in heaven and in the place below earth, that is hell and more.
Pope Gregory X mentioned this venerable practice and tradition of bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus which should be done reverently because if we can truly bend our heads to bow at the Name of Our Lord, inwardly this will indeed affect our hearts that will also bow and submit ourselves in humble obedience and love towards Him, for bowing is indeed a sign of humility, of love and of great respect and veneration, all of which we should give to God for the love He has shown to us all.
Unfortunately the sad reality is how few of the faithful practice this still mandatory and important practice of bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus, not to mention the related rule to also bow, although less profound, at the name of Mary, and also the saints on their feast days. Many among the priests and bishops themselves no longer practice this, and as a result, the respect once accorded to the Holy Name gradually became lost. We end up seeing how the Holy Name of Jesus was used in vain in many occasions, not just in secular use but even within the Church.
We make use of the Name of Jesus so lightly and at occasions when it is really inappropriate for us to mention His Name. Do we realise that in doing so we actually sin against God and cause even greater propagation of this lack of respect and adoration we ought to give God through His Holy Name? That is why we have this Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, which had been instituted almost three hundred years ago in the year 1721 by Pope Innocent XIII. It is to remind us of the sanctity and the importance of the Holy Name of Jesus to us all.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, in the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we have God Who has made Himself tangible to us and accessible to us all, by extending His love to us dwelling among us in the Flesh. By His incarnation, all of us are now able to call Him by Name, just as we are also able to call Him Father, because of Christ, Who is our brother, sharing in the same Father as He is, and becoming God’s adopted sons and daughters.
Let us all reflect on this, brethren, and let us cultivate in us a new respect and honour for the Holy Name of Jesus from now on. Let us spread the venerable practice, that is still in fact mandatory, to bow at every mention of the Name of Jesus in the Mass, and stop any form of profane and inappropriate use of His Name from now on in all occasions. May the Lord Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Name, guide us to the love of God, our heavenly Father. Amen.